(The Center Square) – Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Wednesday that he is confident that the SAFE Act’s provision to end cash bail statewide is constitutional despite a lower court ruling it unconstitutional, which has been appealed.
The Safety, Accountability, Fairness and Equity-Today, or SAFE-T Act, was approved by the General Assembly in January 2021.
It makes several changes to the criminal justice system, including eliminating cash bail statewide, making it the first state to do so.
A combined lawsuit involving over 60 state’s attorneys across Illinois challenged the law before the legislature last month updated the list of offenses a criminal defendant can be held in jail for pending trial.
Last week, a Kankakee County judge found the no-cash bail provision violated the state constitution and separation of powers, siding with the state’s attorneys.
It was initially thought the circuit court ruling only impacted counties where a state’s attorney brought a challenge, potentially spurring chaos in the state’s criminal justice system with some jurisdictions ending cash bail while others keep it in place.
On New Year’s Eve, the Illinois Supreme Court halted the January 1 implementation of no-cash bail statewide pending appeal.
“The emergency motion for supervisory order is allowed,” the Supreme Court ordered.
“In order to maintain consistent pretrial procedures throughout Illinois, the effective date of the Pretrial Fairness Act … is stayed during the pendency of the appeal … and until further order of this Court,” the order said.
Pritzker spoke at an unrelated event on Wednesday and said he was “disappointed.”
“Obviously, I signed the law, and the legislators voted for it, and there is a common and comfortable belief that it is constitutional,” Pritzker said.
“The court system will make a ruling on it through the Supreme Court sometime in the next few months. I am disappointed that there has been a delay in its implementation,” he said.
It is unclear when a final decision on the measure will be made.
Pritzker said the state’s fight to end cash bail will continue if the state Supreme Court strikes no-cash bail down.
“The whole purpose here is fairness, and I think we will continue to fight for that,” Pritzker said.
“Those of us who believe in this know that there is even more to do, but I am comfortable and confident that this is constitutional,” Pritzker added.